Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Remembering Leon Perry

The Shoals lost a great gardener this week. Mr. Leon Perry passed away on Sunday, February 12th at the age of 89. I first met him many years ago when his garden was on the Shoals garden tour. Later, I contacted him about writing an article for Alabama Gardener magazine. Mr. Perry loved showing off his prized azaleas and rhododendrons. Any time we had company during the azalea season, I would hustle them over to see Mr. Perry's wonderland. No matter what size the party was, he would spent hours with us,  regaling us with stories about he started a rhododendron the size of a Volkswagen from a small cutting.

And not just one Volkswagen sized rhododendron. His entire garden was filled with gigantic azaleas and rhododendrons, walls of blazing color that dizzied the senses. It is common to see such large specimens in the mountains of North Carolina, the very spot where they first impressed Mr. Perry on a business trip he took about 40 years ago. Growing them in Alabama that size is not easily accomplished. Mr. Perry was undeterred however and he went home (Iuka, Mississippi at the time) and bought as many rhododendrons as he could find and set out creating a spectacular garden. 

In 1981, he moved to Muscle Shoals, Alabama with a truckload of cuttings and started all over again on a wooded hillside overlooking the Tennessee River. With the help of his wife, Dean, they created a spectacular oasis that includes not only azaleas and rhododendrons but also native plants, wildflowers, camellias, and man-made streams. A true woodland paradise.

Mr. Perry inspired many Shoals area gardeners and I know he will be truly missed.

For more photos of the garden, see my earlier post.



Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

10 comments:

  1. Somehow I missed this, I know how I haven't been able to read the paper the last several days. He had a spectacular garden, and you're right it's hard to grow them that large here. I tried bring some of the larger varieties back from Auburn with me on my trips home. I think 2 are still living at the old house. I hope his garden is handed down to a garden lover. Too many beautiful gardens are turned into yards. Mary

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  2. Sorry to hear about your friend Phillip. He obviously has a green thumb. What a sight his garden must be during the blooming season.

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  3. This is spectacular and I always feel bad when I hear about the end of a marvelous gardening career. Also, it was nice to see photos of your garden on the Fine Gardening site... Larry

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  4. Mary, I do hope that someone can take care of the garden. It would be terrible if it went to ruin.

    Thanks Lisa and Larry!

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  5. How sad he is gone, but it is rather inspiring that he started plants from small cuttings when he was older. Shows such a great attitude.

    Jan
    Always Growing

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  6. Too bad he is gone. I'm really sorry to hear that Phillip. The garden is really lovely and fully bloomed!

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  7. I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Perry's passing. He led our Master Gardener group through his beautiful garden several years ago, and it was such a treat learning from such a fascinating man. I will pass on this news to our group, as many will remember him.

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  8. Thats a beautiful place with so many azaleas. Sorry to hear of the loss of this fine gardener.

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  9. Lovely photo and lovely tribute.

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  10. He sounds really inspiring. I do hope the garden continues - it's gorgeous.

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